Muff? Foof? Fanny? Punani? Private Parts? Front bottom?
By Bella Biddle
What were you taught to call your vagina growing up? I was the slightly uncertain owner of a ‘minnie’, like the mouse I guess, not that I grew up in a house with a Disney channel subscription.
I don’t think I realised that other people called theirs other things until I the big age of 21 and someone asked me what they had called their vagina as a child. They said they’d been collecting words for it, because it was really rare that two girls in any group had been taught to call their vagina the same thing – minge, lady bits, rosebud, nonny, puff puff, wee wee – and she was right, no two terms were the same.
We looked at the boys. “What did you call your penis growing up?” All six of them said ‘willy’.
It got me thinking.
“When did you first learn the word ‘vagina’?” I asked, and the group all named times later in life, sort of during the “sex ed years” between ages 9 to 15. One girl said she hadn’t known she had three holes until she was 16! All of the boys in the group had always known that really, their ‘willy’ was a ‘penis’. The more I thought about it, the more sure I was that I had known the word ‘penis’ long before I knew what a ‘vagina’ was, much less a ‘vulva’ or my ‘clitoris’ and ‘labia’. I had spent a good ten years of my life totally familiar with what a cartoon penis looked like (I had seen them doodled all over the desks at school and on the bus ride home) and living with a total mystery right between my legs.
Now I’m in my twenties and sometimes still in my personal life, I get a bit uncertain as to what I should call my private wibbly bits. Vulva and vagina feel a little bit unfamiliar to me, like something a doctor would say. I’ve listened to boys tell me they’re going to wreck my ‘pussy’ and men holla at me that I’m nothing more than my ‘cunt’, but those words are just as alien to me – something men have labelled my minge, rather than my own term. Surely I’m too old to call it a hoohaa?
I don’t, you might be not-very-surprised to learn, have this issue with my toes. From an early age, I was taught that my toes were my toes, that they were attached to my feet. And strangely, even when people have wanted to talk about them in a sexy context, they’ve managed to use the word ‘toes’ to great success. Similarly, my hair. It comes up in a sexy context, as does my stomach and my back and my fingers. And when they come up in a sexy context, we use the same word I’ve used to refer to them since I was literally a toddler, and it doesn’t seem clinical or alien or difficult. “I want to pull your hair”, “I want to kiss your stomach”, “you have a great back”, “suck my fingers”. Just sounds like the right word for the body part. No big deal.
Teaching children that their vagina and vulva need secret, euphemistic labels creates the idea that these body parts are secret and shameful. It creates distance between us and our genitals, and it stops us being able to connect with them in the same way that we know that our toes are our toes, and our hair is our hair. It’s actually wild that as children we’re taught that our knee is our knee, our ear is our ear, and then our vulva is our ‘wiggly waggly woowoo’. No wonder we’re all grown up now and have no idea what to call our vulvas, much less what they look like.
[TRIGGER WARNING: paedophilia, sexual abuse. Skip ahead to after the bracket if you need.
It is also so important to teach children the right words for their body parts as it makes it tricky to identify if a child is being sexually abused. If a child knows that a part is secret and shameful, they will be less likely to tell an adult. And be real, are you sure if a child told you that they had hurt their ‘noo’, that you would know what that meant in the same way that ‘my vagina hurts’ is a clear indicator that something is wrong.]
Body parts are body parts! They don’t need embarrassing language to hide behind. It’s okay to call your vulva a vulva and your vagina a vagina, to ask someone to lick your labia and touch your clitoris. Just like it feels amazing when someone washes your hair at the hairdressers, or rubs your shoulders, it feels exciting when someone licks my vulva or puts a toy in my vagina.
We’re grown up now, and ready to start talking about our body parts like they’re normal body parts. I’m putting “minnie” to rest, and I’m putting “cunny” and “clitty” and “pussy” right there with it. I am ready to call my body parts what they should be called. Viva la vagina! Viva la vulva!
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